Transitional reflections

By Christine Lemmer-Webber on Wed 20 December 2023

Christine standing on the stairs

Two and a half years ago I wrote a blogpost coming out as "nonbinary trans-femme". It was a big moment for me, but much has happened since, and I thought I'd take some time to talk about those changes and what my experience has been.

To open things, I don't go by "Chris" anymore... "Christine" only. And while I still somewhat identify as nonbinary, I don't put nonbinary at the front of things the way I did... to the extent I am nonbinary, it's more of a space I occupy internally, and I go by Christine and she/her, and they/them is okay but that's more of a "fuck the gender binary in general and I support abolishing gendered pronouns from the English language" thing. This change happened gradually as I found where I fit. I'm a woman, and much more decisively femme than I realized previously, and you've got to be kind of got to be very well tuned into things for me to trust you with the nonbinary side of myself these days.

In this sense, the transition I've undergone really has felt transitional. But I feel astoundingly better with myself than I ever have.

I thought this post might be longer. I guess I'm realizing I've said a lot of what I wanted to say. But one more thing.

People talk a lot about "queer pride" and "trans pride", and of course those terms get co-opted plenty but... I am proud to be trans. I know people, and often but not always they're people who are in oppressive social situations, who wish they were cisgender. It would be nice for everything to be the way I want it by default, without all the extra work, without all the journey, without the bad parts where people are terrible to myself and others like me. But I have also found community and camaraderie amongst many friends who are also trans and the flip side to that journey, though I wish I had to do less of it, is it's been a bonding experience, and it's a community to which I really do feel like I belong and I feel proud to be a part of.

I don't wish I were cis. I wish I had realized I was trans earlier.

I wish that when I was four or five years old and a family member asked me "what do you want to be when you grow up?" and I said "a girl" that it wasn't just a "cute story", that there was enough cultural context for my family to have understood how to support me in that way, as opposed to growing up as something that felt loathesome to inhabit. I don't blame any family members, I know they too now wish they had the tools at the time to have been supportive to me in that way.

I wish a decade ago when a friend came out to me as trans and suddenly all of my friend group suddenly seemed to be trans and more and more community members in FOSS projects I was involved in would private message me seemingly out of the blue telling me they were trans that I could have put the pieces together why I appeared to be such a "supportive ally" that all my trans friends seemed to feel comfortable around. I wish I had realized that the joke that I was "an honorary trans woman" in that group was because really, I was just trans. I wish when I started obsessively looking into HRT and transition processes around that time, when I joined a trans support chatroom to "learn to be a better ally", when I started looking into laser treatment for hair removal, when I started having heaving panic attacks in the fetal position about the possibility of losing my hair (relatively speaking, I've been fairly fortunate there given how late I transitioned), that all of these things had a mutual name, "gender dysphoria", and that if you zoomed out, there was an obvious reason.

People often ask, "what if you regret transitioning?" of trans people. I'm not saying there aren't people out there who have regretted transitioning, and that de-transitioning is an invalid thing, but I'm telling you, it's rare.

Trans people do tend to have a regret about transitioning: not transitioning sooner.

I don't regret transitioning at all. But I wish I had transitioned sooner. That's my big regret. I wish I didn't have a decade and a half of FOSS work, some prominent, to my deadname. I wish I had transitioned with fewer changes from pre-transition to counteract.

Still... considering I didn't transition until my mid-thirties, my transition has been comparatively smooth. "Passing"... well, it's kind of a bullshit metric, it's more of an issue of self-defense against being misgendered or hostility from someone realizing you're trans who's unfriendly to it. On average, I tend to be pretty happy with my appearance and how I move through the world, until someone misgenders me, and then I end up in a world of pain.

A partner of mine recently said, "I don't think cis people realize how little agency trans people have in terms of transitioning." And I think that's true.

Still, I wish I had transitioned sooner. I think transitioning was eventually inevitable for me, and transitioning sooner in life would have made me much happier in general, but I'm still very happy.

I've read it said before: "The best time to transition would have been yesterday, but the second best time to transition is today."

I think sometimes about the period of feeling kind of "selfish" for "wishing I was trans too" and feeling jealousy of my friends who had transitioned and seemed much happier in a way that felt like it was unattainable for me because, unlike them, "I wasn't really trans", I was an imposter.

I will tell you now what I wish someone had told me then: if you wish you were trans, that's because you're trans. Cis people don't "wish they were trans", and they don't wish they were a different gender. If you wish you were differently gender configured, that's because you're trans (or nonbinary, genderfluid, etc), and transitioning is open to you if you want it.

And if you're not trans, well... support your trans friends. The world is incredibly harsh and scary right now to be a trans person. In some parts of the world, including in the United States, it's downright dangerous. I live in a part of the US which is relatively safe but I've had friends literally had to flee from the states they lived in and literally feared for their lives. It's incredibly dangerous to be trans in places like Florida and Texas and Alabama right now, and that's just... unfair. It shouldn't be unfair.

I had a friend who fled from her home state and said "I'm a domestic refugee, and if it weren't for political reasons why the UN is reluctant to acknowledge that the US would have a portion of its own citizenship which are refugees, I would be recognized as such."

So, support your trans friends. And try to help make it less scary out there for us, to be and to live. We're just trying to live our lives and be ourselves.

Well, I guess I had more to say than I thought at the mid-way mark, huh? But one more thing...

Christine with kind of wild hair

I'm Christine Lemmer-Webber, and I'm a woman. The fact that I'm trans is just a detail of that, and it's an aspect of myself that ties me into larger and tighter knit communities, but it's a detail. I'm a woman, and I'm happy to be living authentically as so.

Thanks for reading. <3